He was born 100 years ago and his life practically coincided with that of Czechoslovakia, embodying for a short time the hope of a “socialism with a human face”.
Alexander Dubcek and the PCI? “Better late than never”. 100 years after the birth of the theorist of “socialism with a human face”, Professor Federigo Argentieri, professor of Political Science at John Cabot University in Rome, reminds Adnkronos how the PCI, despite having condemned the invasion of the Warsaw Pact which in 1968 put an end to the Prague spring, had an attitude for a long time ” disappointing “towards the Czechoslovak exiles in Italy, including Jiri Pelikan. Author of “The proletariat against the dictatorship. Protagonists and interpreters of the Hungarian 1956”, Argentieri is an expert on the political events of Eastern Europe and has always been interested in the role of intellectuals in totalitarian regimes.
After the arrival of the Warsaw Pact tanks in Prague, which put an end to his reform experience, Dubcek was ousted from power. The former Czechoslovak party secretary became a forestry worker. “Always better than the gulag or end up hanged” as the Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, notes Argentieri. But from 1968, for twenty years, Dubcek became a “non-person both at home and in Italy”. “The great Slavist Gianlorenzo Pacini, who was a friend of Vaclav Havel, joined the PCI when he condemned the Soviet invasion, but then he was disappointed”, recalls the professor.
The turning point came in January 1988 with Dubcek’s interview with Unità, made by Renzo Foa and facilitated by Luciano Antonetti. “It was a world scoop, picked up by all international newspapers, including the Soviet press”, remembers Argentieri. It was then the moment of Gorbachev’s perestroika and Dubcek called himself a “Gorbachevian”.
Then Dubcek was invited to Italy. And, after “the brutal repression in Prague on the twentieth anniversary of the invasion”, he arrived in Bologna, where the university awarded him an honorary degree on November 13, 1988. “He was also received by the mayor, councilors, politicians. It was a national tribute and also a way for the PCI to make amends”Argentieri says, underlining that in the previous twenty years the leaders of the PCI most hostile to maintaining relations with the Czechoslovakian opposition “were Giorgio Amendola, for realpolitik, Armando Cossutta and Giancarlo Pajetta for ideological reasons”.
A year after their visit to Bologna, Dubcek and Vaclav Havel were greeted in Prague by an ovation from the crowd, when they appeared on a balcony on Wenceslas Square. It was the “velvet revolution” as Communist regimes fell across Eastern Europe. Havel became president of Czechoslovakia and Dubcek president of parliament.
But the next three years were for Dubcek “a pain, due to the lack of agreement between the two parts of the country”. Failure to agree which for Argentieri was “inevitable, given that the 70 years of Czechoslovakia’s life were marked by Prague’s paternalism towards Slovakia. The election of the Slovak Dubcek as secretary of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party was an attempt to rebalance”.
Dubcek died from the consequences of a car accident on November 7, 1992, on the eve of the separation between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which he was against. His life, Argentieri notes, practically coincides with that of Czechoslovakia, a country born in 1918. Dubcek’s parents then returned from America, where they had emigrated, and he was born there on November 27, 1921, exactly one hundred years ago.